Why so many "shoot"s?

I went to cambridge online dictionary to see what’s up with the phrase “shoot the breeze”, and found all these;

  • shoot (WEAPON)
  • shoot (SPORT)
  • shoot (MOVE QUICKLY)
  • shoot (FILM)
  • shoot (PLAY)
  • shoot (DRUG)
  • shoot (PLANT)
  • penalty shoot-out
  • shoot sth down
  • shoot for/at sth
  • shoot out
  • shoot through
  • shoot up (INCREASE)
  • shoot up (DRUGS)
  • shoot sb down
  • Don’t shoot the messenger.
  • shoot questions at sb
  • shoot the breeze
  • shoot sth/sb down (in flames)
  • shoot a glance at sb
  • shoot yourself in the foot
  • shoot your mouth off
  • shoot the works
  • shoot for the moon

Whoa! I never even thought about there being so many uses for the word “shoot”. I got so excited I forgot to click on the term I went there for.
So are all these uses based on the same etymology? And why is the word so popular? Few of them have anything to do with actually launching a projectile.
While you genii explain it for me, I’ll go back and click my original query.

If you look at it closely, surprisingly many words have a relatively large number of senses. I can’t tell you much about “shoot” in particular, but there is a very rough tendency that shorter words are both more frequent and more ambiguous (i.e. have more distinct senses.) A possible explanation for this is that speakers want to communicate in an efficient manner. To a certain degree they can save syllables by sacrificing uniqueness and still be understood.

My job as a student assistant is identifying and annotating such word senses and the roles of parts of sentences in a large corpus of newspaper texts for this project according to this system.

Your question seems pretty rhetoric, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have a try at answering it! :stuck_out_tongue:

Shooting is a simple, violent concept. IANALinguist, but many colloquialisms begin their lives through the lower class-- and they have a lot of firsthand experience with shooting. Finally, speaking fast is characteristic of the lower class, and it seems to coincide with the word’s usage.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

I seem to recall reading somewhere (in other words, I don’t have a cite) that the word “set” has more uses than any other word in the English language. It wouldn’t surprise me if that were true - it does seem to be a very versitile word. Let’s see what the Cambridge dictionary has to say about it:

* set (POSITION)
* set (GET READY)
* set (FIX)
* set (GIVE WORK)
* set (MUSIC)
* set (SUN)
* set (GROUP)
* set (PART)
* chess set
* close-set
* deep-set
* dinner service
* drum kit
* fondue set
* heavy-set
* the jet set
* manicure set
* set-aside
* set piece
* set point
* set-top box
* smart set
* socket set
* tea set
* train set
* twin set
* set about sth (START TO DO)
* set about sb (ATTACK)
* set sb against sb (OPPOSITION)
* set sth against sth (COMPARISON)
* set sth against sth (FINANCE)
* set sth/sb apart
* set sth aside (PURPOSE)
* set sth aside (LEGAL DECISION)
* set sth aside (IGNORE)
* set sb back (sth) (COST)
* set sth/sb back (DELAY)
* set sth back (REDUCE)
* set sth down (WRITING)
* set sb down (PASSENGER)
* set sth down (AIRCRAFT)
* set sth forth
* set in
* set sth off (CAUSE)
* set sb off
* set sth off (MAKE NOTICEABLE)
* set off/out (JOURNEY)
* set sb/sth on sb
* set on/upon sb
* set out (ACTIVITY)
* set out (JOURNEY)
* set sth out (DETAILS)
* set sth out (ARRANGEMENT)
* set to (WORK)
* set to (FIGHT)
* set sth up (ARRANGE)
* set sth up (START)
* set sb up
* set sth/sb up (PROVIDE)
* set sb up
* set (sth) up (PREPARE)
* set sb up (DECEIVE)
* set yourself up as sth
* set the agenda
* start/set/get the ball rolling
* put/set the cat among the pigeons
* put/turn the clocks back
* put/turn the clocks forward
* set an example
* clap/lay/set eyes on sb/sth
* set sth/sb on fire
* set fire to sth/sb
* set foot in somewhere
* make the fur fly
* set your heart on sth/doing sth
* set light to sth
* let/set sth loose
* On your marks, get set, go!
* set/put your mind to sth
* set/put sb's mind at rest/ease
* put/set sth in motion
* put/set pen to paper
* put/set pencil to paper
* set your pulse racing
* set/put the record straight
* put/set sb right
* put/set sb right
* set sail
* set the scene
* set/put the seal on
* set sb to work
* not set the world on fire
* set the scene/stage
* be (dead) set against sth
* be set on/upon sth
* be set fair
* be set in your ways
* set up shop
* set your sights on
* not be set/carved in stone
* set great/little store by sth
* put/set someone straight
* lay/set the table
* give sb something to talk about
* set sb's teeth on edge
* put/set sth in train
* set the wheels in motion
* get/set to work

To be fair, a lot of those items in that list seem to be derived from its core usages. But surely it must count for something that its core usages are versatile enough to spawn a list of such a monstrous size.

Actually, most of your examples seem to have meanings of fast, even violent, movement. I believe most of them share the same etymology, coming from the Old English scyte.

As an aside, what’s the Cambridge Dictionary rubbish? Everyone knows the only real one’s the Oxford…

Shoot, Jim (short for Atticus Finch), you own stock in that site or what? Subscription, indeed.
Let me set you straight.
The Cambridge one came up when I typed “dic” into my browser. Anything but m-w, which locks-up my comp.

I knew a man who used shoot as an exclamation as in, “Oh Shoot!”

Yeah, that’s one of the uses, popular among southerners, that I really don’t get. Although I’ve used it a lot myself. I can’t connect “Oh Shoot” with using a gun. Maybe it’s a whichamacallit, say that instead of saying "Oh Shit’?